Culture & Values, Volume 1: A Survey of the Humanities with Readings
Nonetheless, Steinberg covers his chosen ground quite thoroughly. In a field such as literary studies, it is somewhat difficult to define "accuracy"; literary interpretation is, after all, always in some degree subjective. Steinberg is as accurate as a literary critic can be expected to be: I found no incorrect quotations of literature or of critics in his book, and he hews close to prevailing strands of literary interpretation. Steinberg's readings of individual texts, and especially his introduction on how to read and to teach literature, will remain relevant for a long time.
As time passes, they will move in and out of agreement with the shifting currents of academic theories of literary interpretation, but they will be of some value as long as the texts they discuss are still read. Steinberg's introduction, emphasizing as it does close reading and attention to the words on the page, would be of value even if no one read the texts he discusses; the skills he champions are necessary prolegomena to any more specific theoretical approach.
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The book is most relevant to students beginning college-level study of literature, whether they are English majors or not, as it clearly and engagingly presents a theory of how to read and enjoy literature. The content is general enough and the writing style encouraging enough not to put off students for whom interpreting literature is not a prime interest, yet still contains enough specifics to be of use to students encountering the texts for the first time. As other reviewers have noted, the book would also be of great relevance to adult learners seeking a helpful guide to classic literature.
Students encountering these texts for a second time, or in a more intensive setting say, a seminar on Jane Austen would likely find the book less relevant to their interpretive needs. Steinberg writes with refreshing clarity: his prose is accessible and engaging, and he makes no attempt to sound dauntingly intellectual. The book is certainly internally consistent; as I have already noted, it sets out a general method of reading which it then applies to various specific works. In all cases, the specific interpretations follow the general method.
To the extent that Steinberg uses specific literary terminology, he is consistent in its use; however, the book is fairly free of jargon. This book is highly modular; in fact, it is much more likely that an instructor would use part of it in a course than all of it. The introduction could be used with profit in any introduction to literary analysis: I will use it in my Introduction to the English Major course, and it would even be of use as introductory reading for a general education literature course.
The chapters on individual works would be useful auxiliary readings for anyone encountering these texts for the first time, and they are self-contained enough that they can easily be read and understood in isolation. As I have already noted, the book moves from general method to specific application. The discussions of specific works are arranged in chronological order, and when more than one text is discussed in a chapter as in Chapter Three, which discusses the Odyssey and the Aeneid there are clear links of subject and themes which bind the texts together.
Even though the book is quite modular, the chapters flow easily from one into the next, and reading the book straight through is a pleasant experience. This book is freer of typographical errors than many printed books are. There are no interface issues with the PDF, which I have read all of; a quick look at the ePub text does not reveal any issues either.
The cultural relevance of Steinberg's text is problematic. While his overall premise that reading literature should be enjoyable, and that close reading techniques can help make it so is neither insensitive nor offensive, his choice of literary examples could be considered so. As mentioned earlier, the texts discussed are all either classical or British and all written before In addition, only two female writers are included, and no writers of color are included at all: this gives a narrower view of English literature than is necessary or, perhaps, justified.
The chief problem, in my view, is that the selection of texts implies that, while reading literature should yield enjoyment, only the works of white British authors are really capable of doing so. Steinberg certainly does not say this, and I am sure he does not think it either; however, a wider variety of authors would help to show the breadth of enjoyment that literature can offer. This is a well-written and engaging book that will be of real use to students embarking on the project of reading and interpreting literature. While not suited nor intended for use as a course textbook, it presents a valuable introduction to close reading and enlightening readings of various canonical literary texts.
The author does not claim the book is comprehensive, and in fact he draws attention to the limits of its chapter topics. The book is comprehensive in the sense that it marshals many reasons to study literature, but the author chooses to focus on The book is comprehensive in the sense that it marshals many reasons to study literature, but the author chooses to focus on a few favorite works to illustrate those reasons.
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There is evidence that the author's knowledge of the field is comprehensive, but the book itself encourages readers to make their own efforts to garner comprehensive knowledge of English literature. The author is direct and clear about his biases toward certain periods, genres, and authors, and justifies those biases. There are several typos in the book, some of them problematic. I found the plot summaries and analyses to be accurate and error-free.
You might want to be a little kinder to shepherds on page 67 Shakespeare's Corin is actually a very wise man. You might want to give bibliomancy a name on page The author discusses several canonical works that we will continue to teach for several hundred years, but his anecdotes and analogies will become obsolete more quickly. The dated material will be easy to identify and replace; the surveys of critical responses to the works can be easily supplemented as new critical studies become available.
The text seems aimed at advanced placement high school students, college students who are not majoring in English but are taking a literature class, and adult learners who would like to know more about English literature. This audience will have no trouble understanding the author's clear and logical prose. Definitions are deftly and consistently offered, and there is no lit-crit jargon used. The book's purpose is clear from the introduction forward, and the author's argument about the value of literature develops clearly and logically with each chapter.
There is a consistent habit of using well-chosen examples, and a sensible and repeated structure in each chapter, making it possible for students to read the chapters over the course of the semester without losing sight of the pattern. The chapters can easily be read individually and in any order, but there is a welcome tendency to recall earlier chapters in brief, relevant ways. The works are organized chronologically, and the author draws attention to artistic and technical developments that demonstrate how the later works evolve from the earlier ones.
There are errors, although they seem inadvertent. On page 20, in line 11 of the quoted poem, "wen" should be "went. On page 84, ste-dame should be step-dame, and three-no should be three-note. On page , beards should not be capitalized. On page , elast should be least. One page , I'the storm should be i' the storm lower case i. The opening sentence of Chapter 6 should end with a question mark.
On page in the last paragraph, I think "to" should be "too," but I may be misreading the sentence. On page , appear should be appeal. On page , paragraph 2, should "there" be "these"? This book is of relevance to students of the humanities. It covers a period of western history when most writers were male and white, but the author takes the time to explain why this is so and to offer ways in to these poems, plays, and novels for all readers.
The anecdotes become a bit wearing by the middle of the text. The analogies are good, and the gentle, positive tone will reassure readers who are new to literature. The frequent demonstrations of how to do a close reading provide a valuable model for readers, and the thoughtful efforts to link the works through cross-references make the book a coherent study.
The conversational tone and the author's obvious love of the material make this an accessible, readable text for non-specialist audiences. For what it is, this book provides an excellent overview of literary studies as a discipline within the humanities. You can't fault the book for what it strives to do--to give students a kind of traditional sense of literary studies as a You can't fault the book for what it strives to do--to give students a kind of traditional sense of literary studies as a humanistic profession. But as an American educator I find the omission of American authors a bit puzzling.
Doubly puzzling when the factor in that the author teaches at an American university! The author surveys drama, poetry, and fiction--all either British or ancient Greek. But no American literature! The addition of at least work by an American--Saul Bellow, say, or Walt Whitman--would go far to offset the way in which literature is classified as essentially a British art.
The joyful explications of the literature are infectious. The author clearly enjoys critiquing literature, and it shows in every summary, paraphrase, and explication. There are a few problems with accuracy, though. One problem is the missing translation information for Homer's "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" when these works are cited. Both Robert Fagles's and Richard Lattimore's transltions appear on his bibliography for both "The Illiad" and "The Odyssey," but the in-text citations do not specify which translation is being cited.
I would also like to see a footnoted book. I'm not accustomed to reading scholarly books on Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens et al sans footnotes.
Most of this discussion is strictly focused on textual commentary, so no footnotes are needed. But it wouldn't have hurt to tether certain references to outside works via footnotes. On page 59, for example, the author cites a phrase of James Joyce's "Ulysses" : "mystery of paternity. This book explores the world of great literature, which is found in each and every century and does not have the same shelf life as the social sciences or the health fields. The author does a very good job, however, of occasionally reminding the reader of how these great literary works intersect our own lives in the 21st century.
He mentions, for instance, the problems of film adaptation of Dickens's "Great Expectations. I also enjoyed how the author made the work accessible to a broad range of contemporary students. The book is excellently written. I have no qualms in recommending the book on this point alone.
Very readable. Even though I teach some of these works and am already quite familiar with the spectrum of critical approaches to them, I still found myself pulled into the book. The chapter on Philip Sidney's "Astrophel and Stella" is worth the price of admission. And I also enjoyed the chapter on Jane Austen,. The chapters do not have as strong of a parallelism as they could. Otherwise, the book is well thought out. Each chapter is a stand alone work and can be used on its own. I will probably be using the chapters on Shakespeare, Dickens, and Austen in future literature classes.
The author uses sub-headings in some chapters quite a few in the opening chapters and not in other chapters. Personally, I don't view modularity as being all that important in a work of literary studies, especially if the chapters are not overly long. The book succeeds as a text meant for a student readership while being intellectually engaging for the teacher as well.
It is easy to read, makes sense in most places, and subject matter is logically sequenced in chronological order. Perhaps one suggestion would be to include more textual citations. The analyses tend to be a bit anemic in textual citations. But then again, it's a matter of taste. I like literary criticism spiced up with a lot of quotations that serve to illustrate and substantiate the claims being made in the work. The book is probably more "old school" than some open source books.
But I like it this way.. What matters here is the lliterature, the analysis, the language style, the arguments, etc. The book is well written.
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It could be published by a reputable literary press. I like the style, the voice, the diction, No problems here. The book never slights anybody, As mentioned earlier, though, it is heavily weighted towards a British view of literature. Maybe a second edition of this book could include a couple chapters that could offset this a little bit.
But then again, users of this book could just add their own chapters to it, I guess. This book isn't so much a "textbook" that students work out of; it's a book meant to be read. I give the author a lot of credit for doing this. I will probably be using this book for this reason: it's a useful and engaging book to read rather than to use.
Theodore L. There are ten chapters in all, with nine devoted to literary discussions of specific literary works.
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He traces the humanities to classical beginnings, to the Renaissance, and to the Enlightenment. He briefly reminds readers that part of the task of the humanities is to recognize the ironic lack of inclusiveness in historical concepts of the Enlightenment. He recognizes that the critique of the Enlightenment is implicit in the inherently skeptical nature of literature. The reading of literature then, Steinberg suggests, becomes a central act of gaining a measure of critical autonomy.
A few of the reasons for a decline in literary interest, he offers, ironically involve commercial and technological changes that are themselves part of the impetus for open textbooks. The open text seems to provide a space for a renewal of literary study for the contemporary reader. In this case, one finds a text that demonstrates an interdisciplinary survey of literature that makes a case for humanistic study. This cross-disciplinary concern brings in historical data about political history, poetics, linguistics and dialect, dramatic theory, and staging design.
In the chapter on Fielding, Steinberg shows how the emergence of the genre of the novel can be seen in the context of an emerging bourgeois literacy allusively familiar with a wide range of literature. Steinberg gives a note on citations. Citations of verse are marked by line number.
Less convenient, prose citations refer to chapter number. Readers of primary texts, say of Dickens or Austen, will need to flip pages. The Selected Bibliography lists recommended translations of Homer and Virgil. Readers will have to decide upon editions of the other authors collected in Literature, the Humanities, and Humanity. Steinberg stresses the interpretive flexibility of literary study and the need for well-supported critical readings.
Since his subject matter in chapters pertains to literary efforts spanning two millennia it would appear that this material has survived the intellectual history throughout the development of the liberal arts. One might interpret that question of relevance and longevity, a question related to the survival of canonical literature, in terms of the literary-critical field. The book tangentially or indirectly implies developments in literary criticism, but the text is situated in the appreciation of canonical literature rather than in opening questions of ideology and a metacritique of the canon itself.
The text is lucid and perspicuous. If writing must be clear, which this book is, there is also a need for readers to meet the writing in the space of the text.
On the other hand, the parts of the text—the introduction on the value and aesthetics of literature, for example, or the various chapters on particular authors and works—may conceivably be used separately as modules in readings courses, or as supporting articles in literary surveys. Again, the reading level is clear enough for undergraduate general education courses. In the Introduction Steinberg reminds us that interpretation is perspectival and the history of Western literary development traces an increasing recognition of class, gender, and ethnic differences.
Some of these issues reappear in individual chapters on specific authors and texts, especially chapters on Pope, Austen, and Eliot, which consider the gender roles of readers of literature. Part of his solution lies in the way we can rethink reading by stressing aesthetic enjoyment of texts, demystifying literature, allowing for a more openness to interpretation, and by conveying a deeper interest in literary language. At the time when study of the Humanities in general and literature in particular is under constant attack, this book pursues a noble goal of insisting that reading of literature is an important and necessary component of education.
Rather, from the onset of the book Steinberg aims to establish the artificiality of the long standing distinction between literature and fiction and to explain that, while literature always stands in need of interpretation, there are no hidden meanings in most works of literature so that anybody can enjoy reading.
His primary audience seems to be readers beyond their college years, but even so, some chapters of the book can be used to introduce the inexperienced reader at college level to such complicated poetic works as the "Iliad" and the "Aeneid", teaching of which always presents a challenge in the classroom. Although in his theoretical part of the book Steinberg dwells very little on theoretical approaches to literature such as formalism or post-structuralism, he offers comprehensive and helpful readings of important canonical texts of the Western canon ranging from Homer to many examples taken from British literature.
The choice of these texts for case studies is never fully explained and it can be argued that it is not broad enough for example no American, French, German, or Russian texts are included, texts that are considered influential for the formation of the Western canon if one indeed accepts the existence of it.
Instead, this textbook draws heavily on the examples from English literature of the 18th and 19th centuries. This book adequately addresses existing interpretations of the literary works chosen as its case studies. One might agree or disagree with certain close readings provided by Steinberg, but overall each case study covers the main questions arising in the classroom discussions for every literary work chosen.
Steinberg does not reference any other secondary sources and because of that the reader does not see any other perspective but his. While it obviously limits his arguments, Steinberg provides convincing textual evidence from the primary sources which give the reader a taste of the literary work under discussion. This book can be used as a valuable introductory textbook for students not majoring in humanities or for adult learners.
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Most similar commercial textbooks outlive their usefulness by trying to address the most prevalent theoretical approaches. This book aims to offer more inclusive and coherent introduction to the study of literature. Since it targets a non-specialist reader, it avoids the obscure terms of literary criticism and it explains and unfolds definitions that a non-specialist reader might find difficult. I think, however, that some key terms of literary criticism can be introduced and used without confusing the reader. The book is consistent when analyzing every work of literature chosen as a case study.
The book, however, avoids drawing any intertextual or philosophical conclusions thus making the discussions at times superficial and oversimplified. This book would be difficult to use in its entirety for any particular class, but the parts of it might be relevant to the contents of a specific syllabus, especially in foundation literature courses that aim to provide an understanding of literature in the form of a survey rather than address specific details.
The book does not follow a particular line of argument or theoretical framework adhering instead to explaining to the readers why a particular work of literature has value and provides pleasure. While this rather broad approach can be seen as a shortcoming of the book, it also provides easy transitions from chapter to chapter and engaging discussions free of tediousness.
As I stated at the beginning of this review, this book is extremely timely because it insists that there is a reason why certain books of literature must be read even at the time when the attention of audiences is so thinly spread and targeted by numerous other distractions.
The book makes a convincing argument that the aesthetic value of literary works that for hundreds of years constituted Western literary canon remains unchanged and that cultural literacy is not a thing of the past. I can also see how it can be used in the foundation classes which introduce students to conventions of literary criticism and basic concepts of writing a coherent literary analysis.
What I mean to say is: whereas But even if Steinberg has no interest in introducing students to formalism, post structuralism, or any of the other ideological lenses through which literature is so often read in the academy, his study is unnecessarily narrow in at least one other respect: after his opening chapter offers a theory of reading, Steinberg provides nine chapters delving into case studies of specific texts.
He offers excellent close readings of canonical texts from The Iliad and The Odyssey to Bleak House and Middlemarch, but the vast majority of his examples are drawn from British literature. He references a wide array of texts but chooses to focus on a relatively narrow selection of books. B Huff rated it did not like it Jul 26, Justin Bachtell rated it really liked it Apr 27, Rebekah rated it did not like it Oct 06, Lauren rated it it was ok Jan 24, Kimberly rated it liked it May 07, Rebecca Christiansen rated it it was amazing Apr 23, DeMarcus Armour rated it it was amazing Feb 20, Athina Stockman rated it really liked it May 31, Muhammad Arsalan marked it as to-read Jun 28, Jason marked it as to-read Oct 22, Adair Welsh added it Feb 11, Janette Rivera perez marked it as to-read Mar 19, Edhaliz is currently reading it Aug 15, Lysa added it Sep 12, Jacqueline Barney added it May 09, Brian Baskin added it May 29, Kenna added it Aug 28, Morgaine Dayton added it Jan 28, Bombero Garcia marked it as to-read Jan 15, Cristal added it Mar 25, Elitsa Boteva marked it as to-read Nov 23, Alexander J marked it as to-read Oct 13, Jake Bews marked it as to-read Jan 17, Sheila marked it as to-read Feb 11, Jeff Fowler marked it as to-read Apr 06, Gazmend Kryeziu marked it as to-read May 11, Eufemia marked it as to-read Aug 07, Kenny marked it as to-read Aug 19, Blake Howard marked it as to-read Jan 23, Kim added it Apr 23, Yunusjamal marked it as to-read Jun 04, Tammy marked it as to-read Nov 30, Dhwanishdave added it Sep 15, Ras Salassie marked it as to-read May 01, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.
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